Sunday, March 04, 2012

a vote of support the McMillan Sand Filtration site project


I am in favor of the proposed development plan of the McMillan site for a variety of reasons:

1) If the city is going to make itself more livable and affordable, we need to increase the overall supply of housing. This plan adds at least 735 units.

2) Of course the industrial heritage of the site merits careful consideration. This plan preserves a representative number of the sand filtration storage silos and internal vaults to properly reflect this era`s water filtration technology. Moreover, the plan does so in a useful and integrated way. Open space by itself has some value but this plan creates more meaningful open space that will engender lots of use by a wide variety of people. Some have said we need to maintain the ``water filtration capacity`` of this site. To be generous, this is simply not possible unless the District (and we as taxpayers) spend millions of dollars to restore a system that is insufficient both in capacity and technology, no matter how nostalgic we may be. I might add that the city is losing both physical pieces and public access to a far superior historic landscape to the District/Federal Government development at St. Elizabeth`s with but a fraction of the discussion consumed by McMillan.

3) One of the most vociferous opponents and cheerleaders for the neighborhood NIMBYs of this development works for The Catholic University of America. The CUA has its own development agenda as anyone who takes a walk around the Brookland Metro Station will see. It seems obvious to this writer that the University is perfectly happy having a faculty member touting what is essentially a travelogue of unrelated ideas--not anywhere near a ``plan``. For the NIMBYs, though it is adequate ``proof`` that other options exist. Never mind that the travelogue has no spatial, economic or environmental rigor. It is disingenuous for the CUA to play a role in this discussion as they have a clear conflict of interest--their development becomes more valuable with McMillan undeveloped amid the endless ``Groundhog Day`` of meetings, citizen groups and ANC commissioner-pandering.

4) The merits of the City`s purchase of this property and the amount paid are history. The fact is that the city bought the property to develop. Without adequate, viable economic use of this city resource, the city does not have revenue for more affordable housing, libraries, schools, parks and playgrounds, fire and public safety as well as historic preservation.

As a member of the ICOMOS scientific committee on Cultural Towns and Villages and a long standing advocate of historic preservation, it saddens me to see this site sit for years while the same arguments cycle and cycle like so many hamster wheels. This plan is well thought-out, sensitive to environmental, historic and economic conditions and most importantly, creates a place of lasting value for future generations to enjoy, while preserving the essence of the tangible and intangible value that the McMillan site represents. I urge you to review it carefully. If you look at it without prejudice you will see the thought, experience and sensitivity that it represents, and I believe you will also support it.

Jeff S., FAICP

And here is a subsequent post by Jeff:


The number on the DC Government site, , for the cost the entire development is $700 million, so $47 million over 5 years would represent about a 7% investment. I will investigate in more detail, but the number does not seem on the face of it to be an unreasonable contribution considering the tax base of 1.1 million square feet of commercial, retail and residential, especially if the city is going to use 30 year bonds or Tax Increment Financing. I wonder how many Ward 5 Council candidates know the difference between a TIF and a general obligation bond? Or what a proforma is for that matter...LOL



TheCommiss said...

Finally someone who has done their research, has a good grasp of the issues and knows the history. Now Jeff PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE show up to the meetings and the council hearings to help our community finally see a long awaited development that is consistent with the goals and needs of DC!

Paul Kirk said...

Yeah, Barry, and anyone against this developer's "vision" to build another Shirlington here does not have a good grasp of the issues and doesn't know the history.

Notwithstanding that this property was officially named historic and is within the area set aside for open space, here is the more damning recent history:

Fittingly, development of this site was led by Harry Thomas, Jr., recently convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from needy children in the District, his own constituents. That is why there was no honest bid process and the developer was pre-selected at a brief one-night beauty pageant disguised as a competition. This event, which I attended, passed as a mockery of a process that resulted in contributors to Harry Thomas Jr's luxury lifestyle being awarded with this $775 million development project.

Since then, neighborhood residents have been fighting for information. The McMillan Park Committee has had to sue for access to documents as though this publicly-owned development project was a CIA operation. While we have begged for significant contiguous park space, the developer has been drawing up plan after plan that maximizes commercial square footage.

If you live in Stronghold, you will miss the sunsets. If you run or walk your dog, you will miss the opportunity to have a running path that circles the newly developed property and the reservoir. If you had high aspirations for the world-class landscape architecture that could result from building on property with views of the Capitol, reservoir and Washington Monument, that is another opportunity missed as the developer simply wants to build another Shirlington.

There has been no honest, data-informed assessment given to describe the impact that a $750 million development project will have on traffic in Bloomingdale. (The developer has suggested construction of traffic lights up and down First Street; so, if you like the charm of North Capitol Street, we can enjoy timed lights on First Street) (and maybe more enforcement cameras as well)

We have already been told that trees on the property will be assessed by EYA's in-house arborist and many look healthy but need to be cut down. We are also being told that removing 25 acres of water storage will have no adverse impact with respect to stormwater runoff. Instead, the City is licking its chops looking at campaign contributions and tax revenues that will be generated by our new Shirlington--traffic, trees and stormwater be damned.

The new Ward 5 Councilmember will have a significant role in this project. Now is the time, before the election, to get a commitment to hold an honest competition of ideas and solutions that will make the best use of this publicly-owned property. We all know that Barry and Mr. Thomas have been shilling for each and every iteration of EYA's "Vision" project, including their first attempt which trumpeted open space (like sidewalks) as green space.

If we continue down the road of this corrupt process, we will get what Bethesda-based EYA wants, not what is best for this neighborhood.